One day that Antony had come out, and all the monks approached him and they were begging to hear by him some spiritual words he told them the following in the Egyptian language; The Holy Scriptures are sufficient indeed for teaching, but it is good if we also encourage each other in the faith, and we groom ourselves with spiritual conversations.
And you therefore, as my spiritual children that you are, bring up any questions that you have to your spiritual father; and I, being older in age, will speak to you from what I know and from the experience that I have.
And in the first place, let us all have the same common concern, that is, since we have started living the ascetic life, let us not go back to the secular life again, and let us not allow our spirit to bend from the hardships, and to never say; we have already lived too much time in the ascetic life.
But rather, let us increase our willingness even more, as if we were starting every day for the first tme. Because the whole life of a man is minimal, if compared with the future ages to come, and consequently, all the time of our life is zero compared to the eternal life.
And while every thing in the world is sold for what it is worth and is exchanged for things of equal value, the promise of eternal life, however, is purchased at a very low price.
For it is written; «All the days of our lives they usually amount to the seventy years, and if someone has a strong constitution he might even live up to eighty, although most of them are labor and pain».
So if we live ascetically during all these eighty or even hundred years, we shall not reign these hundred years only, but, instead of a hundred, we shall reign forever and ever;
and even though we have fought on earth, we will not inherit anything here on earth, but we will enjoy the promises in heaven. Besides that, although we leave here on earth this perishable body, we receive it back incorruptible in heaven.
Therefore, my children, let us not lose our courage, nor think that we have remained in asceticism for a long time period already, or that we have achieved something great. «Because the sufferings of this present time are not worth whatsoever, when compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us».
And we should neither look at the world and think that we have given up any great things. Because even the entire earth is very small in comparison to all of heaven.
So even if it happened to us to be the rulers of the entire earth and even if we renounced the whole of it, not even that would be worthy, when compared with the kingdom of heaven.
Because, as someone might despise one copper drachma in order to gain a hundred gold ones, so he who is ruler of the whole earth and renounces it, he actually renounces a small thing and he receives a hundred times more.
And since, not even the whole earth is worth anything compared to the heavens, then he who has given up a few arourae only, it is as if he gives us virtually nothing, and even if he should give up a house or considerable amount of gold, he should not really boast about it, or start being indifferent over spiritual matters, as if he had already achieved something important.
Besides, we have to consider that, if we don't leave all these for the sake of virtue, then later when we die, we will leave them, not rarely, even to people that we would not want to leave anything, as Ecclesiastes reminds us. Why then we shouldn't give them up for the sake of virtue, in order to inherit the kingdom of heaven?
For this, none of us should wish to acquire material things. Because what benefit do we have in acquiring things, that we cannot take with us?
Why shouldn't we rather aquire those things that we can take them with us, that is, prudence, justice, temperance, courage, understanding, love, concern for the poor, faith in Christ, freedom from anger, and the hospitality?
If we acquire these virtues, we will find them in front of us there, in the other life, where they will have preceded, to prepare hospitality for us in the land of the meek.
With such thoughts as well, therefore, let each of us convince himself not to show negligence; and especially, if he considers, that he is the Lord's servant, and consequently has a duty to serve the Despot.
As the slave, therefore, would never dare to say, «Because I worked yesterday, I won't work today», nor he ever stops working during the next days, because he calculated how much time had passed since he had started working, but on the contrary, he shows the same willingness every single day in order to please his master, and not to risk being punished, as the Gospel says;
so let us also keep insisting every day in ascesis, knowing what even if we show negligence a single day, God will not forgive us, because we had a good past, but he will be indignant against us for the negligence that we showed. The same thing we have heard in the book of Ezekiel. So also Judas Iscariot, for one night, he lost his fatigues of the past years.
Let us devote ourselves, therefore, to the ascetic life and let us not show indifference, because in this spiritual struggle we also have the Lord in our aid, as it is written; «For everyone who chooses the good God cooperates in the good».
And in order not to be negligent and indifferent, it is good to study the saying of the Apostle Paul, which says «I die every day». If therefore, we also live as if we were going to die in each day, then we will not sin.
But this saying of the apostle also has the following meaning. Every morning when we rise from sleep, we should believe that we will not remain alive until the evening, and again when we are going to sleep, we should believe that we will not get up, because our life is uncertain and each of our days is numbered by Divine Providence.
If therefore we feel this way and in this way we live every day, then we will neither sin, nor desire anything, nor will we be angry against anyone, nor will we treasure up on earth; but, as we will anticipate that every single day we might die, we will not pursue the acquisition of material goods and we will forgive everything to everyone.
And we won't allow to remain inside us neither the desire for the woman nor any other impure pleasure, but we will rather turn away from it, as something transitory that is not worth our attention; and this because the holy agony will always possess us and we will be looking forward to the day of the Judgement.
Because always the greatest fear of hell and the struggle against temptations, destroys the smooth allure of pleasure and restores the soul that deviates on its right course.
So, since we have already set out walking on the path of virtue, let us keep moving forward to what lies ahead of us, and let no one turn his head back like the wife of Lot;
especially since the Lord said; «No one who puts his hand to the plow and turns to look back is fit for the Kingdom of heaven». Because when someone turns his gaze backwards it doesn't mean anything else, other than he has changed his mind and has got a mundane spirit again.
And do not be afraid to hear about virtue, nor be surprised by its name. Because virtue it is not far from us, nor it is achieved outside of ourselves, but the work of the virtue lies within us, and it's an easy thing, it is enough only to want it.
And you see that the idol worshipers in order to gain an education they emigrate to foreign countries and they traverse the seas. We however do not need to move to foreign countries in order to acquire the kingdom of heaven, nor to cross the sea for the sake of virtue.
Because the Lord anticipated us and said; «The kingdom of heaven is within us». Therefore, the only thing that the virtue needs is our will. And this, of course, because it is within us and it is carried out by ourselves.
Because virtue is acquired, when the soul by nature desires the spiritual things. And the soul desires the spiritual things by nature, when preserved as it was made by the Creator, and it was made beautiful and perfectly straight.
For this reason Joshua, son of Nun, when he gave orders to the people, he was saying; «Set your heart straight toward the Lord God of Israel». And John the Baptist was saying; «Make your paths straight».
Because this is the innate spirituality of the soul, that is, being straight, exactly as it was when it was created. But when it deviates from its destination, and is twisted away from its natural condition, then this perversion is called malice of the soul.
Therefore, the thing is not so difficult. Because, if we remain as God created us, then we are in virtue; but if we think wicked things, then we rank among the bad ones and we will be judged as bad.
If virtue was a thing that we should procure it from outside of us, then things would be difficult. But now that it is within us, let us protect ourselves from impure thoughts, and as if we had received our soul as a trust, let us preserve it near the Lord, so that He may recognize that His creation is preserved exactly as He created it.
And let us fight so that anger does not tyrannically rule us nor let our desires dominate us. Because it is written that «The anger of man does not evoke the justice of God». and that «when the desire is conceived within us, gives birth to sin, and sin, when it is full grown, brings death».
Conducting, therefore, in this manner, in the ascetic life, let us be vigilant and, as it is written, «With every precaution and watchfulness let us protect our hearts».
Because we have terrible and cunning enemies, the evil demons; and our contending is against these, as the Apostle said; «Not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities and against the powers, against the world rulers of this present dark world, against the evil spirits, with heavenly goods as the prize».
Countless then it is the crowd of the demons that exist in the air around us and they are not far from us and their variety is very large. And as far as their nature is concerned and their varieties, there could be a long discussion, but our purpose here now is to narrate other, greater things. For the present, what is pressing for us and it is necessary for us to know, it is the evil plans which they are plotting against us
And at first let us get to know this, that is, although the demons are so called, they were not initially created like that because God did not create anything bad;
so while they were created good, they fell from the heavenly wisdom, and they've been rolling ever since around the earth; and while they deceived the Greeks with their mythological fantasies, for us Christians, because they envy us, they move everything against us, in order to prevent our ascension to heaven, so that we do not ascend there from where they fell.
For this reason, we need much prayer and ascesis, so that each one of us, by receiving through the Holy Spirit the gift of discrimination of the spirits, to be able to know their craftiness. That is, which of them are less wicked, which are more wicked, which is the endeavor, in which each one shows its activity, and how each one of them can be overturned and expelled.
Because their machinations are many as well as the moves of their enmity against us. The blessed Apostle Paul and his disciples had learned these tricks when they were saying; «We are not ignorant of his designs»; we, however, owe to correct each other through the experience that we have of them. For this reason, therefore, because I also have some experience concerning the evil spirits, I am now presenting it to you because you are my spiritual children.
If the demons then see all the Christians, and especially the monks, to be gladly laboring and advancing, in the beginning they try to provoke temptations, by setting up traps along the road. Such diabolical traps are the impure thoughts.
But us Christians, we should not fear their insidious submissions. Because with prayers and fasting and with faith in the Lord, the demons are immediately defeated. But even when they are defeated, they never cease but they come again with cunning and deceit.
Because when they don't succeed to openly deceive the heart with impure hedonistic thoughts, they attack again in another way. They create phantasms in the mind and they try to intimidate us, by transforming themselves and imitating women or beasts or reptiles or huge bodies and multitudes of soldiers.
But we should not be afraid neither with these phantasms of theirs. Because not only they are nothing but they also quickly disappear, especially if each of us fortifies himself with faith and the sign of the Cross.
They are daring and very impudent, for even if they are defeated in one way they again attack in another way. And they pretend to prophesy and that they predict things that will happen in the future, and they appear as tall as the roof and with their shoulders broad, so that those they were unable to deceive with the thoughts, they might be able to seduce by means of such phantasms.
If, however, they find the soul secure with the faith and with a hopeful mindset, then they finally seek for the help of their leader.
«His eyes are shining like the morning star. From his mouth burning lamps are coming out and hearths of fire are cast forth. Out of his nostrils proceeds smoke as of a furnace burning with fire of coals. His soul is like burning coals and flames come out of his mouth».
In this way appearing the lord of the demons, he intimidates, that crafty one, as I said before, and he mouths off big boastful words, as the Lord revealed him again by saying to Job; «For be considers the iron as chaff and the brass as rotten wood».
«And he regards the sea like his little vessel for the perfumes, that he has the tartar of the abyss under his power like a prisoner; and the abyss itself he considers it as his own walk». And as the Lord revealed to us through the prophet; «The enemy said: I will pursue the man and I will overtake him».
And with another Prophet the Lord reveals us, how the devil boasts, by saying; «I will take over with my hand the whole world, so easily, as someone takes over the nest of a bird, and I will lift it up as someone lifts the abandoned eggs».
And in general, with such arguments the demons boast, and such things they promise when trying to defraud the pious. But us believers we should not fear the fantasies of the devil nor pay attention to his voices, because he is lying and he never says anything truthful.
And although he brags so much and becomes more insolent, he was caught however, like a giant snake, by the Savior with a hook, and like a beast, the Lord has put him bridles around the snout, and like a fugitive he tied his nostrils with a ring and pierced his lips with a hook.
And the Lord tied him up therefore like a little sparrow, so that we can mock him; and he is thrown to the ground, him and his demons, in order to be trampled underfoot from us Christians, like the snakes and the scorpions.
And the evidence of this weakness of his, is that here and now we conduct our lives in opposition to him. Because he who proclaimed that he would make the sea disappear and he would become lord of the world, behold now, it cannot hinder your asceticism, nor me that I am speaking against him.
Let us not pay attention, therefore, in whatever he might say, because he is lying, nor be frightened by his phantasms, because these are also fake. Because what is seen with these tricks of his, is not true light, but they are probably the preambles and the prefigurement of the fire in hell which has been prepared for them; and with the same fire in which they are going to burn, with that they try to frighten the people.
And these phantasms present themselves but at the same moment they disappear again without harming any of the believers, bearing, however, a complete depiction of the fire that is going to receive them in the future. We shouldn't be afraid of them therefore, not in these cases either, because, by the grace of Christ, all their evil tricks do not count for anything.
But, they are also deceitful and ready to be changed and be transformed into everything. Many times therefore, while they are hidden, they pretend to chant melodiously, and they recite words from the Holy Bible.
And sometimes, when we read, they immediately repeat, many times like an echo, what have been read. Other times, they wake us up for prayers when we sleep. And they do this all the time, so they nearly don't let us not even to sleep.
Other times again, they transform into monks and they pretend to speak like the devout, in order to deceive us with their likeness to our monastic form, and then to drag wherever they want those who manage to deceive.
But we should not pay attention to them, even if they wake us up for prayer, or if they advise us to not eat at all, or if they are pretending that they accuse us and they laugh at us about things, in which once they agreed with us.
Because they don't do these things for the sake of piety or for the truth, but in order to bring to despair the upright characters and to claim that the ascetic life is useless, and to make the people to loathe it, because apparently the monastic life is very burdensome and oppressive, and in order to obstruct those who live their lives against them.
The prophet Habakkuk, moreover, who was sent by the Lord, was scolding the demons, saying; «Woe to him who pours on his neighbor intoxicating wine and afterwards enjoys his humiliation! Because such practices and thoughts are turning people away from the path of virtue.
But also the Lord Himself was silencing the demons and prevented them from speaking even when they were telling the truth, because in truth they were saying; «You are the Son of God»; and He prevented them from speaking, lest, some time, along with the truth, they sow at the same time their evilness as well, and in order to accustom us to never pay attention to them, even if they seem to be saying the truth.
Because while we have the Holy Scriptures and the free will which was given to us by the Savior, it is inappropriate for us being taught by the devil, who did not maintain his own rank, but he pursued other things. For this, even when he says words from the Scriptures God hinders him by saying; «And God said to the sinner, Why do you declare my commandments and take up my testament in your mouth?»
Because, in order to deceive the authentic characters, they are using all the ways, that is, they also shout and they make noise and they pretend and they cause disturbance.
They also make knocking sounds and they laugh stupidly and they whistle. If someone, however, doesn't pay attention to them, then they cry and mourn like defeated.
The Lord, therefore, as God was silencing the demons; and we, however, who have learned a lot by the example of the holy ones, we must act in accordance to them and imitate their courage. Because when they were seeing the works of the demons, they were saying; «While the sinner stood before me, I closed my ears and I humbled myself and I kept absolute silence even before words or deeds of good».
And again; «And I, as if I were deaf, wasn't listening to their words and as if I were mute, I wouldn't open my mouth in order to answer. And I became like a man who does not listen».
And we, therefore, let us not listen to them nor obey them, because they are completely strangers to us, even when they wake us up in order to pray, or even when they speak to us about fasting; but rather, let us pay more attention to our own zeal for the ascetic life and let us not be deceived by them who do everything with guile.
Nor should we be afraid of them, even if they seem to be attacking against us or even if they threaten us with death; because they are weak and they cannot do anything other than intimidate.
I have already spoken to you about the devil in brief; But again, I won't get bored to talk to you in more detail for what concerns the demons; because the reminding of the words is for the benefit of your spiritual safety.
When the Lord came to earth the enemy fell and his powers weakened. For this reason, certainly, he cannot do anything, however, like the tyrant that he is, although he has fallen, he does not calm down, but he goes on threatening, even if only with words. Each one of you, therefore, can think about this as well and he will be able to despise the demons.
So, if they also had bodies like ours they could say that the humans are hiding and we don't find them, but when we find them we harm them. Thus, we could also hide ourselves, so that they cannot find us, because we would close the doors to them.
But since the demons do not have a material body, they can enter even with the doors closed and they are present everywhere in the air, both they as well as their leader the devil. They are always ill-intentioned and ready to do harm, and, as the Savior said, the devil, the father of evil, is homicidal from the beginning.
But we live spiritually according to the ways of Christ and we are fighting against them all the more. Because it is obvious that they don't have any power, although no particular place prevents them from plotting against us, nor do they see us as their friends in order to show us mercy, nor do they love the good in order to be reformed but they are rather wicked; and nothing else interests them more other than harming on those who love virtue and those who honor God.
And because they don't have power, for this they don't do anything, other than just threatening. Because, if they had power they wouldn't take long, but right away they would act the evil, because they are always predisposed to evil and especially against us.
Behold therefore now, we have gathered here and we speak against them, and they know that, while we are advancing spiritually, they become all the more weaker. So if they had authority they wouldn't let any of us Christians live. «Because the worship of God causes disgust to the sinner».
And because they have no power at all, for this reason they wound themselves instead; because they can't do anything from what they threaten.
Moreover, in order not to be afraid of them we must also think about the following; That is to say, if they had power, they would not come as a crowd, nor would they create fantasies, nor would they be transformed in order to carry out their purposes;
instead it would be enough for only one demon to come, in order to do to us what he can and what he wants; even more because, whoever has the power, does not kill with phantasms nor threatens with the crowds, but immediately when he wants he exercises his authority.
But, since the demons cannot do anything, they play like actors on a stage, by changing their forms and scaring the little children, with the fantasy of their crowd and their transformations; that is, with things for which we should rather despise them, for being weak.
On the contrary, the true angel whom the Lord sent against the Assyrians, had no need of crowds, nor from imaginary apparitions, nor of knocks and clangs, but calmly and quietly he made use of his authority and right away he killed one hundred and eighty-five thousand.
The weak demons, however, such as they are, they cannot do anything, even if they try to intimidate the people with their phantasms.
If someone thinks about the sufferings of Job and ask himself; Why, then, when the devil came out from his presence before God, he did all these things against him? and stripped him of his belongings, and killed his children, and struck him as well with a terrible and painful wound?
Let the one who asks therefore know, that the powerful one was not the devil, but God, Who handed Job over to him in order to be tested his faith and his patience. And because on his own he didn't have the strength to do anything, he asked God for permission and, as soon as he received it, he did what he did against Job.
So by this also is the enemy even more reprehensible, because, although he wanted, however, he did not prevail not even against a single righteous man; Because, if he had power, he would not ask for permission; and because he asked for permission, not once, but also for a second time, from that he looks weak and that he cannot do anything.
And it is not strange at all the fact that he didn't achieve anything against Job, since of course, no destruction would be done not even against his animals, if God did not allow it;
but, the devil has no authority not even against the swine; Because, as the Gospel says, the demons were begging the Lord, saying; «Allow us to go to the herd of the pigs». If, therefore, they have no authority not even to the pigs, much more they have no power upon the people, who are made in the image of God.
Only God, therefore, we should fear while we should despise them and not being afraid of them at all. On the contrary, the more they do these things, so much the more let us increase our ascesis against them. Because our great weapon against them is the orthodox way of living and the faith in God.
The demons really fear the fasting of the ascetics, the vigils, the prayers, the meekness, the peaceful character, the contempt for money, the lack of vanity, the humility, the love of the poor, the almsgiving, the absence of wrath and above all the veneration towards Christ.
So that's why they do everything, so that there are no people who will trample on them. Because they know well the divine grace which was given to the faithful against them from the Saviour, who says; «Behold, I have given you authority to tread upon snakes and scorpions and over all the power of the enemy».
If therefore they pretend that they have the ability to foretell the future, let no one pay any attention to them. Because often, in advance, they announce us the names of the brothers who after a few days are going to meet us. And then they actually come.
The demons do this however, not because they care for those who listen to them, but in order to persuade them to trust them as prophets and after they have brought them under control then to destroy them. Therefore, we should not pay attention to them, but, also when they predict something, we should not admit to them because we don't need them.
Because, what is strange, if, them having these lighter bodies than the people, they see those who have started in order to come to us and running faster they pass them on the street and they come first to notify us? In the same way, a horseman as well can foretell, by overtaking those who go on foot.
Therefore we should not admire them not for that either. Because they do not foreknow anything of the things that have not yet happened. God is the only one who knows all things, before they happen.
But they run ahead like thieves and they report what they see. To how many, I wonder, are they announcing at this very moment that we have gathered here and we are talking against them, before someone could leave from among us and make a report! But this, even a little child who runs fast can do it, if he overtakes someone who has fallen behind.
Here is what I want to say. If someone is about to start walking from the Thebaid or from some other place, before he even starts walking the demons do not know if finally he will complete the journey.
But as soon as they see him advancing, they run ahead and, before he arrives, they announce his coming. And after a few days they are actually coming. Very often however, the travelers turn back and the demons are disproved.
In the same way they also chatter about the water of the Nile River; because as soon as they see numerous rains falling in the regions of Ethiopia, and, knowing that due to those rains the flood of the river takes place, they run ahead and they say it before the water comes to Egypt. This however, also the people could have said it, if they could run like them.
And like the watchman of David, by ascending to a high place and setting his watch there, he could see someone coming before any other watchman who remained on a low watch point, and running ahead, he would announce before the other watchmen not the things that haven't happened yet, but those that were already in progress and were happening.
Like the watchman of David, therefore, similarly the demons as well prefer to tire themselves in order to notify others, but only in order to deceive them.
But if the Providence of God, in the meanwhile, decides something different, about the waters or about the travelers, because He has this power, then the demons turn out to be liars and those who had believed them would have been fooled.
In this way, the oracles of the Greeks had been founded and in this way the people in the past were led astray by the demons, but also in this way later the fallacy has ceased. Because the Lord came, Who, destroyed the demons along with their craftiness.
Because, on their own, they don't know anything, but, like the thieves, they only project what they see in others, and they rather observe and conclude than knowing in advance. Therefore, even if sometimes they say something true, even then no one should admire them.
Because the physicians too, from the experience that they have on the diseases, when they observe the same disease in various people, they often predict its evolution, because from experience they reflect and draw conclusions.
But also the captains of the ships and the farmers too, are doing the same. Observing out of habit the weather conditions, they foretell if it will become winter or if it will be good whether. And for that, no one can say, that they foretell by divine inspiration, but out of experience and habit.
So if sometimes the demons too, thinking like that they say the same things, let no one admire them for this, nor pay any attention to them. Because, of what use is it to those who listen to them the fact of knowing a few days earlier the things that are about to happen?
Or what is the urgent need for someone to know these in advance even if he indeed can truly know them? Because knowing in advance is not one of those things that promote virtue nor is it a sign of good morals.
Because, none of us will be judged because he didn't know the future, and none of us is blessed because he had been informed about it and he knew it, but each one of us will be judged on whether he kept the faith and whether he kept the commandments accurately.
Therefore, we should not give great importance in these things, nor to live the ascetic life and labor hard just in order to receive the gift of foresight, but in order to please God with our righteous living.
And we must pray, not in order to receive the gift of foresight, nor should we ask for this gift as a reward for the ascetic life that we lead, but for the Lord to become our accomplice in the victory against the devil.
And if at any time it interests us to know something in advance, let us keep our minds clean. Because I believe, that the soul which is kept pure from all the bad thoughts and remains as God created her, that soul can become insightful, and see more things and farther than the demons, because she will have the Lord Who will reveal everything to her.
Such was the soul of the Prophet Elisha, which could foresee everything Gehazi was thinking of doing and she could also see the powers that stood by her side.
So, when the demons are visiting you at night and they want to tell you the future or they say; «We are angels», pay no attention to them because they lie.
And if they praise your ascetic life and they bless you, neither obey them nor pretend to pay any attention to them; but you should rather seal with the sign of the Cross yourselves and your house and pray, and you will see them disappear.
Because they are really cowards and they are very afraid of the signal of the Cross of the Lord, because of course our Savior, after he stripped them with his Cross, He made an example of them for us.
However, if they insist on bothering you with more and more insolence with obscene, taunting dances and pretending to be various imaginary figures, neither cower in fear nor dread them, nor pay attention to them regarding them as good. Because it is easy and possible to distinguish the presence of the good or the evil spirits because God gives us this gift.
The appearance of the holy spirits is not frightening. Because during their appearance no one will neither wrangle, nor cry aloud, nor will anyone hear their voice. The appearance of the holy spirits takes place quietly and meekly, so that it immediately becomes joy and jubilation and courage within the soul that has the apparition. Because the Lord is with them, which is joy for us, and strength for God the Father.
And the thoughts that the divine apparition brings to the soul are unperturbed and placid, so that, when the soul is enlightened by the holy apparition, to be able to see and perceive the saints or the angels that appear before her. Because, along with the apparition, enters into the soul also the divine desire for the future prosperity, to the point that the soul is wishes to cling close to them, and if it were possible, to leave the earth with them.
And if by chance some people, as human beings that they are, get frightened by the apparition of the good spirits, the appearing saints immediately take their fear away through their love, as Gabriel did for Zacharias, and the angel in the sepulchre of the Lord who appeared to the women, as well as the angel who, according to the Gospel, was saying to the shepherds; «Don't be afraid». Because their fear was not due to cowardice of the soul, but due to the awareness of the presence of superior spirits. Such, therefore, is the appearance of the holy spirits.
On the contrary, the invasion and the imaginary appearance of the evil spirits, is turbulent, with beats and sounds and shouts, as would also be the invasion of rude children and thieves.
Directly with the appearance of the evil spirits, cowardice is created in the soul, tumult and confusion of thoughts, bad mood and hate towards the other ascetics, apathy and spiritual inactivity, sadness, remembrance of the relatives and fear of death. And also, desire for evil things, negligence for the virtue and moral confusion.
So when you see some spirit and you get scared, if your fear is immediately removed and in its place comes an inexpressible joy and cheerfulness and courage and recovery of the morale, calmness of the thoughts and all the other things I mentioned, as well as courage and love towards God, then have courage and keep praying. Because this joy and the good state of the soul shows the holiness of the spirit that presents itself.
Thus Abraham, as soon as he saw the Lord, he felt spiritual joy; and John the Forerunner, he shivered out of joy inside the womb of his mother, when Mary the Mother of God spoke.
But if any spirits appear to you, and disturbances occur and external noises and indecent human acts and death threats and everything I said before, then you should know that an attack is going on of wicked spirits.
But bear in mind also the following characteristic of the evil spirits; when the soul continues to fear, that is due to the presence of the enemies. Because demons do not remove the cowardice which accompanies their appearances, as the great archangel Gabriel did who took it away from Mary and Zacharias and as did the angel who appeared to the women in the monument of the Lord.
In fact, on the contrary, when they see people being afraid, then they aument and magnify the imaginations, in order to terrify them even more and subsequently, after subduing them, to play around with them by saying; Fall on your knees to worship us. This is how they deceived the Greeks and they considered the demons as their fake gods.
The Lord however did not allow us to be deceived by the devil, because, when he presented also to Him such imaginations, He reproached him and said to him; Get away from me, Satan; for it is written; «the Lord your God you must worship and Him only you shall serve».
For all this, therefore, let us despise the cunning devil all the more. Because, what the Lord said, He said it for our own good, so that, when the demons hear these words also from us, to be overthrown by the power of the Lord, Who rebuked them with the same words.
However, we should not boast because we cast out demons, nor be proud because we cure diseases; nor should we admire only someone who casts out demons and despise someone else which does not have the power to cast them out. But let us examine the ascesis of each one, and, either we imitate him and show the same zeal with him, or we correct him.
Because the act of performing miracles does not depend on us; this is the work of the Savior, Who was saying to His disciples; «Do not rejoice because the demons are subordinate to you, but because your names are written in heaven».
Because when our names have been written in heaven this testifies to our own virtuous life; but when someone casts out demons this is a gift that is given by the Lord.
For this reason, to those who boast not for their virtue, but for the miracles that they perform, and say; «Lord, have we not cast out demons in Your name and have we not performed many miracles in Your name?» the Lord answered; «Amen I say to you, I do not know you». For the Lord does not know the ways of the ungodly.
Therefore, we must always pray, as I said before, in order to receive the gift of discerning spirits, so that we do not believe in every spirit, as the Scripture says.
Lest you think however, that I am saying these things to you as a simple theoretical narrative, and in order to believe that what I am telling you is from my own experience and that it's real, for this I'm saying to you again how many wicked tricks of the demons I saw with my own eyes, even if I might sound like a fool.
The Lord, of course, Who hears me knows that I have a clear conscience and that I am not telling you this in order to brag, but because I love you and in order to exhort you into the practice of virtue.
How many times have they blessed me and I cursed them in the name of the Lord. How many times did they announce the flooding of the river and I was telling them; «And what do you care about that?» They once came with threats and they surrounded me like armored soldiers.
Another time, they filled my house with horses and beasts and reptiles, and I was chanting; «They came against us with chariots and cavalry, we, however, in the name of our Lord and God we will defeat them triumphantly»; And with the prayers, the Lord took them away.
They once came in a dark night, like luminous ghosts, and they said; Antony, we came to enlighten you; And while I was praying with my eyes closed, it immediately went out the light of the impious ones.
After a few months, they came again singing and reciting words from the Scriptures; «but I was not listening to them as if I were deaf». One other time they shook the monastery, but I remained motionless and I was praying and I was maintaining my spirit unshaken.
And after that they came again and they made crashing noises, and they whistled and danced. When I was praying however and while I was sitting chanting psalms to myself, they immediately started to lament and to cry as if they were completely exhausted, while I was glorifying the Lord, Who was destroying and humiliating their audacity and their mania.
A demon appeared once very tall and flamboyant and he dared to say; «I am the power of God» and, «I am the divine providence, what do you want me to give you?»
Then I spat on him calling upon the Lord, and I attempted to hit him and it seemed to me that I hit him indeed. Immediately, at the hearing of the name of Christ, he, who was so tall, along with all the demons of his company, they vanished.
He came once when I was fasting, looking like a monk, the cunning one, holding imaginary loaves of bread and he was advising me saying; eat and stop trying so hard; you are human too and you might get sick.
I, however, understood his cunningness and I rose to pray. He could not bear it, because he instantly disappeared and appeared to be coming out of the door like smoke.
How many times did he show me fantasy of gold in the desert, just in order to touch it and in order to look at it! But I was singing psalms with all my heart and he was melting away.
Several times they were causing me wounds and I was saying; «Nothing will separate me from the love of Christ». And after that they were bumping into each other and they were hurting each other.
However, I was not the one who was canceling them and was abolishing them, but it was the Lord who says; «I was seeing satan falling like a lightning from the sky».
Remembering, however, the Apostle's word, «I have applied all this to myself», in order for you, my children, to learn to not be disappointed during ascesis, nor fear the imaginations of the devil and of his demons.
And since I became a fool with these narrations of mine, receive this as well for security and fearlessness, and believe me; because I'm not lying.
Someone once knocked on my door in the monastery, and when I went out I saw one that looked tall and slender. Then, when I asked him; «Who are you?» he said: «I am Satan».
When afterwards I asked him; «Then why are you here now?» he said; «Why do the monks accuse me unjustly, and all the other Christians? Why do they curse me every hour?» And when I told him; «Why are you bothering them?» he replied; «It is not me, the one who bothers them because I have already become weak, but they are the ones who bother themselves.
Have they not read that, «The swords of the enemy were totally destroyed and you demolished his cities»? I no longer have a place, no arrow, no city. They have become Christians everywhere. Even the desert has been filled with monks. Let them watch after themselves and stop cursing me unjustly».
Then I marveled to the grace of the Lord and I said to him. «Although you are always a liar and you never tell the truth, now, however, even if you don't want to, what you have said is true. For indeed, Christ came and He reduced you to weakness, and, after defeating you, He stripped you of all power».
And upon hearing the name of the Savior, and not being able to bear the burning that was causing him, he vanished.
Since then, the devil himself also confesses that he does not have the power to do anything, we must absolutely despise them both him and his demons.
And although the enemy together with his dogs they possess so many crafty tricks, since, however, we have learned their impotence, we can scorn them.
In this way therefore, let us not be disheartened in advance, nor let cowardice pass from our soul, nor create fears in our mind by saying; Will the demon overthrow me if he comes? Perhaps he will prevail and defeat me? And what if he suddenly appears to convulse me?
We must never entertain such thoughts in our mind, nor feeling sorry as if we were lost. We should rather have courage and let us always rejoice because we have been saved, and let us think deep within our soul that the Lord is with us, He who destroyed them and abolished them.
And let us think and let us always remember that, as long as the Lord is with us, the demons will not do anything to us. Because when they come, they treat us in accordance to the psychic state in which we find ourselves, and in accordance to the thoughts that they find within us, they also adjust the fantasies that they project to us.
Therefore, if they find us frightened and being distressed, they rush straight ahead and they conquer us like the bandits who found the place unguarded, and what we think within ourselves they present it to us exaggerated.
That is, if they see us scared and cowering, they increase even more our cowardice, with their ghosts and their threats, and so with these our suffering soul is tortured.
But if they find us rejoicing in the Lord and thinking about the good things to come and contemplating on whatever pleases the Lord, and pondering that everything is in God's hand, and that the demons do not have any power against the Christian, and in general they have no authority against any human being, then, seeing the demons our soul safeguarded with such thoughts, they turn around and flee totally embarrassed.
So when the enemy saw Job so well defended in this manner, he departed from him, but when he found Judas bare of such thoughts, he captured him.
Therefore, if we want to despise the enemy, let us always contemplate whatever is pleasing to the Lord, and with our hope in the Lord may our soul rejoice always; then we will see the games of the demons disappear like smoke, and the demons themselves we will see them rather fleeing instead of percecuting us.
Because, as I said earlier, the demons are very cowardly, because they are always waiting the eternal fire, that has been prepared for them.
And in order to be fearless against them, keep in mind the following presumption as well; that is, when it is presented to you some imaginative apparition, do not lose your morals in advance, out of cowardice, but whichever one it is this apparition, have courage and ask first the question; «Who are you and where do you come from?»
And if it is an apparition of holy spirits, then they will inform you and will turn your fear into joy. But if it is some diabolical apparition, it instantly fades, because he sees that your mind is strong. Because when someone is asking to learn; «Who are you and where do you come from?» this is proof of tranquility.
Thus also Jesus, the son of Nun, asked and learned, and thus the enemy did not succeed in deceiving Daniel, precisely because he asked him.
While Antony was saying these things everyone was rejoicing; in some, the passion increased for virtue, in others, the negligence was rejected, while in others their pride ceased.
Also, everyone together made the decision to despise the enmity of the demons, admiring the charisma of the discernment of the spirits which had been given by the Lord to Antony.
And the monasteries in the mountains were looking like tents filled with divine choirs, by monks who chanted, who loved the study of the word, who fasted and prayed, who were rejoicing in the hope of the future goods, who were working in order to give alms, and who had love and concord the one for the other.
And indeed, one could see the desert as a land of devotion and righteousness. Because there was no one there who would wrong or who would be wronged, nor persecutions by tax collectors from the collection of the taxes, but there were multitudes of ascetics, and among them there was one mind, how to succeed in virtue.
Thus, by observing someone the monasteries and the great harmony of the monks, he would exclaim and say; «How lovely are your dwellings, Jacob, and your tents, Israel! Like shady and refreshing valleys and like heavenly gardens in the waters of the river, and like tents that the Lord has set up, and like the cedars of the waters».
Antony himself, of course, departing on his own, as usual, to his own monastery, he was practicing with more intensity, and every day he sighed thinking about the heavenly monasteries, because all his desire was about them and he contemplated the ephemeral nature of the human life.
Because even when he was going to eat or to sleep and to attend for the other needs of the body, he was embarrassed, as he was thinking about the intellectual part of the soul.
Many times, when he was about to eat along with many other monks, he would recall the spiritual nourishment, and he would immediately give up and would walk away from them, thinking that he would blush from shame, if the others would see him eat.
For this reason he was eating alone out of necessity of the body. Many times, of course, he would also eat with his brothers and though he was ashamed of it, still he was taking courage, because with his speeches he benefited them.
And he was saying that we should dedicate our time more to the soul than to the body, and to concede, of course, out of necessity, a little time for our bodies as well, but all the rest of the time we should totally occupy ourselves with the soul and seek the benefit of her, so that she doesn't get carried away by the pleasures of the body, but rather the body becomes subordinate to her.
Because this is what the Lord says; «Do not worry about your life, what you are gonna eat, nor about your body what you are gonna dress».
So you too, do not worry what will you eat or what will you drink and do not toil in vain about these. «Because they are mundane idolaters those who seek all these things. Your Father knows very well that you have need of all these things. You however, first and foremost, should seek the kingdom of God and all these will be given to you».